Women have been overlooked throughout history, but artist Ema Shin honors their lives in her series of carefully crafted heart sculptures, entitled Hearts of Absent Women. Red, plush, and adorned with sparkling beads, these works of art merge different types of handicrafts—traditionally female pursuits—while their anatomically correct structure highlights the existence of women that have been erased from the past.
“I was born in Japan and grew up in a traditional Korean Family,” Shin says. “My grandfather kept a treasured family tree book for 32 generations, but it only included male descendants’ names, not daughters. In my art, I have always tried to celebrate women and their historical handcrafts. These sculptural hearts are made from embroidery, handwoven tapestry, and papier mâché to recognize and celebrate the silent behind-the-scenes domestic duties of women and represent not only her emotions but serve as offerings or amulets for her protection.”
Beautiful to look at, and big enough to rest in your hand, these pieces are sentimental reminders of forgotten women. The surfaces of these heart sculptures are decorated with an array of textures, from feathery strands to tendrils of stitches to knots and beads. This colorful tactile quality imbues each piece with a lively personality reflective of the complex inner and outer lives these women lead.